A strong customer service model based on follow through, respect and privacy, along with a dedicated commitment to serving the membership, has made the Southern Ute Call Center a success.
Created as an essential tribal service following shutdowns imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing Stay at Home Order, the Call Center has provided outreach and vital information to the membership. The phones lines were open for business starting on March 19; following an in-house staff training for employees, which highlighted customer service, and follow through.
“We are here to connect people and help direct them to the right department,” emphasized SunUte Director Robin Duffy-Wirth.
“The people that are working there are service orientated, they want to help and meet the needs of the tribal membership — primarily the elders,” Duffy-Wirth explained. “The important thing is to find an answer, and follow through; and being kind on the phone. [If we don’t have the answer] we hook them up with the appropriate department, division or person — sometimes that is a council member.”
“We are highly respectful regarding individual privacy. We are very respectful of confidentially.”
The Call Center is based out of the SunUte Community Center on Southern Ute Tribal Campus. The entrance to the facility is now restructured to resemble a fully functional base of operations for the call center — surrounded by large whiteboards, print outs of vital PSA’s, in addition to packets of relevant information, and updated resource guides.
While the Call Center is open to everyone, and many questions about the Tribe’s operations, such as inquiries about Casino operations or the fitness center come through— the primary objective is outreach to the membership.
“I want to thank Daisy Eagle. In the beginning we were tasked with contacting all tribal elders. The process of being able to contact all the elders was daunting in the beginning; she helped us organize that.”
“There have been pros and cons,” said Amy Barry, Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Tribe’s Incident Management Team. “Some appreciate the constant dialogue, and there are others who do not wish to receive communication from the Call Center; that is documented. We also provide information to Northern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute tribal members who live on the reservation. We called them because of the smoke, during the [recent] fires, to makes sure they were OK. We can also reach out to a sister tribe on their behalf.”
“TEAM workers, who were deemed as essential in TIS are also manning the Call Center on shifts,” Barry said. “Every time we get a call, we document that.”
Barry was instrumental in the selection of SunUte as the hub of operations, when the Call Center first materialized. “It made sense because SunUte was shut down,” she said. “It made sense because they had phones, computer access. It was spacious enough that social distancing wasn’t an issue.”
Staffing for the Call Center came from within the Tribe. The Shining Mountain Health and Wellness Department has been instrumental in helping at the Call Center.
“Shining Mountain has a really good relationships with the community. We wanted to make sure they [elders] knew us, knew our names,” explained Morgann Box, Diabetes Program Coordinator for Shining Mountain Health and Wellness.
“We were first established to help call elders, the process adapted quickly to what we found worked, and needed to happen. If we knew a tribal elder, we would reach out with a personal call,” Box emphasized. “We would use people that knew them personally. A lot of it is just listening.”
“The processes had to be changed throughout the growth of the center. Everybody involved has been diligent about implementing changes and being flexible, she stated “I think that is a good thing.”
“We have a lot of information,” Box said. “If we don’t know at the moment, we found out — and then we follow up.”
Tribal Information Services is in the process of printing refrigerator magnets, with the Call Center’s phone number to be distributed to Southern Ute tribal members in August.
Early on there was such a sense of emergency, and the Call Center was initially set up to operate seven days a week, now those hours are cut back to normal working office hours, Mon.-Fri 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Call Center staff is made up entirely of tribal employees, many of which are tribal members, who are manning the call enter on shifts.
“Our [internal] communication is really high. We use the CREW [smartphone] app. so everyone can put new information on there, like shift coverage, this is how people keep informed who are working there — keeping 25 plus employees up to date. I had people around me, who organization is their forte, they did a fantastic job of organizing this.”
The Call Center has had about 30 staff members working on shifts since March — volunteers from SUIMA, Education, Construction Services, Shining Mountain Health and Wellness, and of course SunUte — to name a few.
“If elders aren’t hooked up to social media, we might get them the information they need. This was a way to address their needs,” Duffy-Wirth reiterated. “We call out at times, and now more people call in. We are trying very hard to respect the elders who do not want to be contacted — we respect that.”
“In some ways this is building a lot of bridges,” Duffy-Wirth emphasized. “Hopefully the Call Center will continue after Covid-19.”
If you have questions related to COVID-19 or modified tribal operations, please call the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s COVID-19 Call Center at 970.563.0214. The Call Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.